juicy haul  | 

Gardai help take down criminals who smuggled drugs hidden in fruit shipments to Europe

Intercepted shipments in Ireland and Sweden resulted in the seizure of drugs worth €35 million

Intercepted shipments in Sweden and Ireland resulted in the seizure of about 1,200 kilograms of narcotics worth an approximate €35 million (stock photo)

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

Gardai have helped take down a major criminal gang that had shipped millions of euros worth of drugs hidden in containers of fruit into Europe.

A total of 21 suspects, including two women and 19 men, ranging in age from 23 to 59 years, have been rounded up in the Netherlands as a result of an international investigation that involved multiple government agencies in Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Aruba as well as Ireland.

Those arrested have been described as members “from the lower and upper layers” of the crime gang and were picked up in the provinces of Flevoland, North Holland, Utrecht, Gelderland, North Brabant, South Holland and Aruba.

Dutch authorities were alerted in November 2021, when police and customs officers found a suspicious load hidden in a truck at a transport company in the IJsselland district.

Among the cargo that was destined for transport to Stockholm they found more than 300 kilos of hashish and 20 kilos of cocaine with a street value of €8 million.

The IJsselland District Criminal Investigation Department of the Eastern Netherlands Unit then launched an investigation that involved the cooperation of the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), Customs, the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD), tax authorities, and gardai as well as Swedish police, Danish police, Europol and domestic police services.

The discovery of the drugs in the truck prompted the investigation that led to the discovery of more narcotics and firearms that had been shipped from South America in containers of fruit and teak wood to Europe.

Intercepted shipments in Sweden and Ireland resulted in the seizure of about 1,200 kilograms of narcotics worth an approximate €35 million. However, another 2,800 kilos of hard drugs were found in other European ports which are believed to have involved the same crime gang.

In addition, other criminal assets including cars and tens of thousands of euros worth of cryptocurrencies and cash and other high-value objects such as jewellery/watches have been taken from the gang.

Through follow up financial investigations it has been established that this particular gang had earned hundreds of millions of euros in one year from the drug trade.

Investigations revealed how criminals are using legitimate transport companies to distribute illegal products and drugs through Europe.

Authorities said the transport sector had an important role to play in revealing this illicit trade by reporting suspicious activity to the police.

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